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PostPosted: Sun May 03, 2009 8:17 pm 
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Hello everyone! this is my first post after reading around here for a little while.

About a month ago, I saw a landscape service with a large dump truck full of wood chips from a job they just finished, after a short conversation i got them to come dump it in my yard!

I had a large area that was nothing but hard red clay that I spread most of the chips over just to cover the clay so I don't get 5lbs of clay on my shoes when I walk over it after a rain. the rest is in a large pile still that I turn regularly. I add a few kitchen scraps to it, but we eat out a lot, and don't really have a lot of food scraps to add to it. eventually, I would like to keep adding to this pile and use it to cover some more hard packed clay to use as a topsoil to grow grass. living out here in the country, I could probably find someone to let me clean out a horse stall or two to get some more material to add to the pile. the wood chips seemed to me to be mostly hardwoods.

the pile is now sitting on the edge of the woods that already had some 'natural' compost just from the leaves that had accumulated from the trees there.

what suggestions do you guys have to help me turn this pile of wood chips into something I could eventually use to grow grass on? and where could I get some more materials to add to it?

and one more quick question, when I went out there to throw in a couple of ferns that had started to die off in their pots, I noticed an abundance of fireants. probably eating on the mound of grapes I put in there last week. what suggestions do yo have for keeping the ants out?

Thanks so much for all of your input on this board and thanks in advance for your responses.


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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 8:38 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:58 pm
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Location: Arlington, Texas
Greetings!

I think you'll get slightly different replies depending on who answers you but here's my two cents:

First, I'm a "newbie" composter, too, so just know that when you start reading this post. However, I've read most of Howard's books, done a LOT of reading on this site, and have been vegetable gardening for several years now.

I don't know if you want to make a lot of compost, quickly, or if you want to just pile stuff up and let compost happen. For me, I want to make a lot of it, fast. So I read a lot of the posts by SoilGuy and Captain Compost.

Following some of their suggestions/practices, and info from Howard's books, I've started a pile that has 3 big bags of leaves, 1 bag of grass clippings (collected from somebody else's yard), some odds and ends of veggie trash from the kitchen, some weeds, a bag of cow manure, and I treated the pile with a small amount of Agrispon (which is a biostimulant to help the microbes heat up the pile and get it "cooking"). I also added liquid molasses that I diluted into a gallon of water.

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Cara
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Take time to stop and smell the flowers!
(or... as my ladybug refrigerator magnet says
"take time to stop and eat the flowers!" :D)


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PostPosted: Tue May 05, 2009 8:43 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 10, 2009 1:58 pm
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Location: Arlington, Texas
I plan to turn the pile at least once every couple of weeks. I may not always get to it that quickly but that's the plan anyway.

It's important to make sure your pile stays moist -- like a wrung out sponge. Not dry, and not soaking.

As to the ants, I remember reading (on this site, I'm pretty sure) that small black ants will often show up in a pile but they aren't fire ants and they're actually helping to break things down.

Are you sure you've got fire ants? And perhaps it's not bad even if you do have fire ants. Maybe somebody else will post about the ants...

Hope that helps! Happy composting!

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Cara
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Take time to stop and smell the flowers!
(or... as my ladybug refrigerator magnet says
"take time to stop and eat the flowers!" :D)


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PostPosted: Fri May 29, 2009 8:51 am 
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Location: San Antonio,TEXAS
Ants, even fire ants, are not a problem. They are most likely not eating the grapes because fire ants only go for high protein food like meat. In any case the ants are eating something and leaving behind ant poop and ant carcasses. The ant remains will be decomposed by some kind of microbes that may or may not be in your pile already. In any case it will all happen in good time. You will also see cockroaches, flies, mosquitoes, pill bugs, grubs, fruit flies, earwigs, worms, lizards, and all sorts of wildlife in your pile. Don't be alarmed. They are all in there decomposing something.

Your pile of wood chips is a pile of very stable carbohydrates called cellulose and lignin. The fungi that decompose wood can be found growing on fallen logs in your nearby wooded area. Possibly the best thing you could do for your pile is to bring one of those logs into your pile and make a nest for it on top. Then keep the pile moist. I have tried many ways of keeping my pile wet. I even rigged up fine spray shower heads over top of my pile. Even that fine spray was too much water and wasted a lot without wetting the entire pile. What I have finally decided is about right is the little misting nozzles you can sometimes find at hardware stores. Mine are not the misting nozzles for drip irrigators but the misting nozzles that put out fog to cool the air when it is really hot and dry out (click here to see one brand like I'm talking about). These misters really work just like I had hoped. They wet the pile from the outside and the moisture just soaks in. You have to leave them on a long time (like a week at a time), but they hardly use any water at all. Wood chips take forever to decompose so don't get in too much of a hurry. Keeping them moist is the single best thing you can do (after getting the rotten log in there). Also I would not bury the log. Wood decomposes from the outside in, not the inside out. The log and your pile needs plenty of air.

Regarding horse manure: get as much as you can and bury it in the pile. Fresh manure stinks (SURPRISE!!) but when you bury it under the wood chips or dry leaves, all that smell is absorbed by the wood/leaves. That smell is the smell of both carbohydrates and ammonia (nitrogen) leaving the pile so capturing it in the wood is exactly what you want to do.

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